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Uncle Toms Trail – Yellowstone National Park
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Overview
Location

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Sights

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Uncle Tom’s Trail, Upper Falls Viewpoint, Lower Falls, wildlife.

Distance

Uncle Tom’s Trail is about .60 miles roundtrip from the parking lot. The Upper Falls Viewpoint trail (see Trail Map below) which curves around and meets up with Uncle Tom’s Trail is about .31 miles.

Parking Lot Elevation

7784 ft

Summit Elevation

7411 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

373 ft

Time Required

1-2 hours

Pets

Not allowed on trails or boardwalks.

Fees

Park Entrance Fee

Water Info

Bring 1 liter of water. You will get an incredible view of the Lower Falls and Yellowstone River.

Best Season

Spring, Summer, Fall

Hours

Open year round. Stairs would be extremely slippery in the winter months

Sun Exposure

Lots of tree cover.

Trail Condition

Trail is very well marked. From the parking lot, the trail is on a paved path until you come to Uncle Tom’s Trail which is basically metal scaffolding. It is not wheelchair accessible to the bottom of Uncle Tom’s Trail.

Restrooms

At parking lot area.

Visitor Center

There is a few buildings at Uncle Tom’s Point but not a designated Visitor Center.

Camping

By permit and in designated camping spots only.

Food

Bring snacks

Equipment

Good hiking shoes. Bag to carry water and snacks. Camera.

GPS Coordinates

Uncle Tom’s Point: 44.715099°, -110.495944°
Upper Falls Viewpoint: 44.714730°, -110.497118°
Uncle Tom’s Trail:  44.716369°, -110.495060°
Lower Falls Viewpoint: 44.717522°, -110.494451°


Trail Map


Driving Directions

PLEASE NOTE! Winter visits to the canyon area are only available by guided snow coach, or guided snowmobile trips. Uncle Tom’s is closed in the winter and subject to closures in the spring due to ice and snow. 


The Trail:

The trail starts off at Uncle Tom’s Point.  from the parking lot you can either see the Upper Falls Viewpoint, head to Uncle Tom’s Trail or do both!  We did both and it only added about 10 extra minutes.  Uncle Tom’s Point was the old location of many cabins for visitors until the lodge was built at the Canyon Village nearby.

Upper Falls Viewpoint

From the parking lot the Upper Falls Viewpoint is about a 2 minute walk.  Just follow the signs and you will be lead straight there.

Uncle Tom's Trail

Upper Falls Viewpoint.  Still incredible to see even from a distance.
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Uncle Tom’s Trail

Please note that you will be walking on perforated steel so good sturdy shoes are a must!

Uncle Tom’s Trail was created back in 1898 by a man named Uncle Tom Richardson.  He guided guests down his trail of wooden ladders and ropes to the Lower Falls.

Uncle Tom’s Trail is a steel stairway that features more than 300 steps and the entire hike will drop about 500 feet. It is VERY steep but there are handrails and benches along the way.  It is important that if you have any heart or other health problems that you make a wise judgment call so you are able to do this hike without injuring yourself.  Just take your time, rest often, drink lots of water and you will be fine. Here is a view of  the stairs from the opposite side of the canyon.

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Uncle Tom's Trail

You will encounter a few signs along the way.  I recommend reading them as they point out interesting information about who made the trail and how it came to be.

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Uncle Tom's Trail

We did this hike on a rainy day which made the perforated steel somewhat slippery.   I found myself holding on to the railings with both hands as I was going down and I wasn’t surprised to see the bulk of other hikers doing the same thing. Uncle Tom's TrailVery Steep steel stairs.  You may think it is easy to go down but remember you will be coming back up the same way and it is very tiring!  If you rest and take your time as you go back up you won’t have any problems.

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You will see the mist from the falls well before they come into view.

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There is a small waterfall that passes below your feet on its long journey to the river far below. You can see this better in the video.

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Lower Falls.  It is about a 300 foot waterfall.  If you look closely in the following pictures below, you can see visitors standing just above the waterfall on the right side.

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Time to go back up.   Here is a good look at the staircase structure from underneath.Uncle Tom's Trail

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is an incredible site to see.  I was just as amazed with Lower Falls as I was with the canyon. In the picture below you can see Red Rock Point on the opposite side of the canyon, just to the right of the waterfall. This is another great hike.
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The Return:

Head back towards the parking lot.  Remember to take your time.  The climb back up is very steep and you will get tired.


Personal Thoughts:

I enjoyed this hike because it offered amazing views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and of Lower Falls.  When we did this hike on a rainy day there were still lots of people climbing up and down the staircase.  After our hike and on our way to Canyon Village, we stopped along the other vantage points to see Upper and Lower Falls.  I recommend doing this if you want a very casual experience in seeing the area.

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Ratings (out of 10)
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User Rating
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Difficulty
4.5
Technicality
3.0
Enjoyment
7.0
The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek.  If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

7.5
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About The Author
Josh1990
I love adventure! I live in Cache Valley, Utah. Do you have questions on any of my Treks? Email me @ joshua.oyler@gmail.com

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[…] the South Rim to Artist Point. We took in the Upper Falls Viewpoint, and some elk nearby, before Uncle Tom’s Trail, a short but steep hike — .7 miles round trip and 300+ stairs each way — with views of […]